By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis condemned assisted suicide as an unacceptable deviation from medical ethics on Wednesday as Italy’s parliament resumed talks on a law to regulate it.
Speaking at his general audience, Francis praised palliative care aimed at helping terminally ill patients live as comfortably and humanely as possible.
“But we have to be careful to not confuse this help with unacceptable deviations that lead to killing,” he said. “We must accompany death, not provoke death or help any kind of suicide.”
In 2019, Italy’s Constitutional Court partially decriminalised assisted suicide under certain conditions if local health authorities and an ethics board approved. But the court also said parliament should pass a law regulating it.
The draft of the law that parliament was due to start discussing on Wednesday afternoon would allow terminally ill patients to seek assisted suicide https://www.reuters.com/world/italy-grants-first-authorisation-assisted-suicide-campaigners-2021-11-23 through the national health system. It would also protect doctors from any legal suits against them.
But Italy’s political parties remain deeply divided, with the centre-left generally supporting it and the centre-right opposed.
Proponents say assisted suicide should be allowed for patients with incurable illnesses, who suffer intolerable pain and who have already had palliative care.
Senator Paola Binetti of the small Union of Christian and Centre Democrats party (UDC) said the law would violate not only Christian principles but also the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors to treat the ill.
Right-to-die advocates last year collected nearly three times the 500,000 signatures needed to ask a high court to approve a national referendum on the issue. The 1.4 million signatures and legal arguments were deposited with the court this week. It is expected to begin deliberations on Feb. 15.
A poll by the SWG research group in 2019 showed 92% of Italians who were asked said they were in favour of allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia. Some 45% said they favoured it generally and 47% were in favour in certain situations.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Editing by Timothy Heritage)